McKeon’s qualified support for the troops

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) intends to fund the Pentagon, but only if some of his culture-war conditions are met.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Friday he’d rather see Congress fail to pass a defense authorization bill for the first time in half a century than give ground on contentious provisions that seek to direct suspected terrorists into military custody and to ban gay marriages by military chaplains.

McKeon made the comments in a “C-SPAN Newsmakers” interview with POLITICO’s Charles Hoskinson and John Donnelly of Congressional Quarterly.

Asked whether his convictions on both issues are so strong that he would rather not have a defense authorization bill than strip out the gay-marriage and detainee language, McKeon replied firmly on each point, “Yes.”

Just to clarify, the annual defense authorization bill helps fund the military and pay the troops’ salaries. If McKeon blocks the Pentagon’s spending bill — in a time of war, no less — there’s a problem.

And so we’re left with yet another standoff. The conservative chairman of the House Armed Services Committee will allow the bill to advance, just as soon as he gets his way on issues he finds important. What does he want? Two things: (1) every terrorist suspect would have to face a military trial, instead of domestic civilian courts, even though this is a truly terrible idea that make convictions more difficult; and (2) a prohibition on military chaplains volunteering to officiate same-sex marriages, even in states where same-sex marriages are legal.

As far as McKeon is concerned, if Dems don’t give him what he wants, he won’t allow the Pentagon to get paid.

“It’s a give and take process, but you’re not going to give on those two issues,” Donnelly asked.

“Right,” McKeon said, after pausing.

Remember when Republicans said lawmakers who balk at funding the military necessarily don’t support the troops, and probably deserve to have their patriotism questioned? It looks like some in the GOP have forgotten all about this.